Healthcare crisis worsens after police thrash protesters.

KARACHI -- Amid 'belated' efforts aimed at breaking the stalemate, a police action infuriated the protesting healthcare providers on Friday and they threatened to close down all government hospitals in Sindh if their arrested colleagues were not released.

The prolonged crisis at public sector hospitals across Sindh may turn worse if the doctors, nurses and paramedics demanding restoration of health risk allowance for over a month translate their threat into action.

The situation developed after the police prevented healthcare workers gathered in front of DJ Science College on Friday evening from marching towards the Chief Minister's House, made use of water cannons, manhandled protesters and arrested several of them, including women.

Sources said the police action created a chaos and traffic jam on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road and adjoining arteries, causing huge inconvenience to commuters.

'If the police didn't release all our colleagues immediately, emergency services at hospitals will be shut across the province on Saturday,' warned Dr Faizan Memon of the Young Doctors Association, part of the Grand Health Alliance (GHA), a representative body of young doctors, nurses and paramedics. Over 200 healthcare workers were under arrest, including 50 doctors, he added.

He alleged that the police baton-charged protesters, tore off the clothes of nurses and that the government officials 'deceived' them.

'When water cannons were used against us, we were about to disperse after talks with the deputy commissioner South and police officials,' he said.

Healthcare services at outpatient departments of public sector hospitals have already been closed for over a month on account of the boycott by healthcare providers, creating inexplicable difficulties for poor patients.

The police action in the evening also led to protests outside the Karachi Press Club where dozens of health workers chanted slogans against the government, law enforcers, demanding release of their detained leaders and resumption of health risk allowance.

Source said the use of police force also neutralised the impact of the 'redressal committee' that the government notified earlier in the day for negotiations with the GHA. The committee comprised the provincial ministers for information, local government, labour, and the finance and health secretaries.

Police officials, however, claimed that the protesters rejected the notification when they were asked to vacate the main artery.

'They demanded...

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